Archive | May, 2010

Self-education on how to market libraries

27 May

Not marketing your activities is like standing in a dark corner and winking at a girl. You know what you are doing but nobody else does. (Anon.)

And so begins the introduction to A Short-cut to Marketing the Library written by Swedish library consultant Zuzana Helinsky. I recently got this book from the McGill Library’s collection in a desperate attempt to teach myself important concepts that I feel were not adequately covered in library school. When I begin my new position as a Public Library Director in June, I anticipate that the responsibility of developing a marketing strategy for the library will fall into my lap and I want to be as prepared as possible.

As the title suggests, Helinsky’s book offers an extremely brief (only 90 pages) introduction to applying marketing concepts specifically to libraries and is written in an easy to understand language for all us non-business students. Unfortunately this book spends too many of its 90 pages preaching to the choir on the importance of marketing. If I did not already think that marketing library collections and services should be a priority than I would not have borrowed the book in the first place. There was really no need to include so many redundant clichés and analogies to demonstrate that libraries should focus more on marketing (although I must admit that I do find the opening analogy quoted above particularly amusing and applicable).

One point of interest that I learned that I had not previously thought of is Owner marketing. Owner marketing is the idea that you should not only be marketing your library to its users and potential users but that you should also develop a plan to market the library to the “decision makers”. In an academic setting this could be the university authorities like the deans, provosts and principal. In a public library setting this could be the local politicians and/or the library board of directors. Essentially these are the people who allocate the library’s budget and have the final say on approving big projects such as renovations or the creation of a new staff position. In order to ensure that these decision-makers are supportive of the library, they must understand the value of the library within the community/institution and this takes a proper marketing strategy.

The book also mentions certain marketing tools that would benefit librarians in the analysis stage of developing a marketing strategy such as the SWOT, PEST, and Porter’s five forces analysis. We saw these strategies in our Management class but seeing them again in this book has reminded me of the importance of taking the time to brainstorm and use all the information available to develop a clear marketing strategy instead of simply improvising. I tend to be very good at improvising with ideas but I recognize the value of having a game plan in order to effectively promote and validate actions.

Although the author mentions a few interesting marketing ideas that have been used in libraries in Sweden such as a Competitions, using Social Networking to connect virtually with users, and holding a Library Ball, I would be extremely interested in hearing your ideas that could be applied to a small town public library. I have also heard of libraries hosting Speed Dating events and I am extremely intrigued to hear from anyone who has experience with this type of event and who could share its outcomes!

MLIS creates a Network of Friends for Life

23 May

Obtaining a MLIS can set a foundation of theoretical and practical knowledge that is valuable for succeeding in career as a librarian or information professional. However, one aspect of a MLIS degree that is not often discussed but that is invaluable is the creation of a network of friends in libraries/archives/knowledge management. I have just recently begun to reflect on how lucky I am to have studied for the past two years with such a wonderful group of people. Like most students, I had a choice of what universities I could attend for my degree. I could have easily taken the same program at l’Université de Montréal instead of at McGill. But I have a hard time imagining what my experience would have been with a completely different set of classmates. So many things create a strong bond between classmates: working on group projects, complaining about exams and assignments, discussing/poking fun at various professors.

Unfortunately this year I was so busy with school work, associations, and my part-time jobs that I did not socialize as much as I would have liked. For those who wanted, there were lots of opportunities outside of class to hang out with friends and classmates. An informal MLIS group called “Pub Club” even set times and places for people to meet together to enjoy Montreal’s exciting nightlife.

A few weeks ago on the Librarians Without Borders Guatemala Trip 2010 with fellow McGill students, I really appreciated what it was like to be part of a close-knit group of incredible individuals who all share a passion for libraries. Everyone displayed such a strong desire for the library project at Asturias Academy to be successful and we all worked very hard together to develop recommendations and library standards based on the school’s objectives and resources. In addition to the library project, we all bonded as a group while having somewhat crazy but fun experiences travelling around Guatemala. In the last few days of the trip someone mentioned how wonderful it would be if we could develop a form of telepathy amongst the group members. He mentioned that since most of us were going our separate ways after the trip, it would be great if when we encountered problems in our library careers we could simply close our eyes and contact someone telepathically to ask how they would handle a certain situation. Like many ongoing jokes that developed during the trip, we referred to this idea of group telepathy quite a bit. Despite our great plans for telepathy being unrealistic and likely be replaced by other means of communication (email/instant messaging/telephone), what I really love is the idea that due to this bond that I’ve developed with my McGill classmates I know we will continue supporting each other as we begin our careers and beyond.

The friendships that I have developed at McGill mean that I can now share the highs and lows of a career in libraries and seek advice from graduates who work in various positions from Montreal to California to South Africa. I also applaud two classmates who will shortly begin their PhDs at McGill; I completely admire their further pursuit of academia, who knows in a few years I might want to join them!

McGill’s MLIS Graduation is June 2nd and although some students have already left Montreal to pursue new jobs and projects elsewhere, I’m very excited at this chance to get together with so many of my classmates before we all go out into the real work world.

Libraries as Learning Places: Reflections from ABQLA’s 78th Annual Conference

11 May

Less than a week had gone by since returning home to Montreal from the LWB Guatemala Trip and I already was already back into the swing of Montreal libraryland. This past weekend was the 78th annual ABQLA Conference on the theme of “Libraries as Learning Places”. I was especially excited about this conference because many of the presentations related to issues of great importance to library directors such as marketing and communications that I felt were not covered in library school classes.

The first keynote speaker was Lori Reed, a librarian trainer from North Carolina. She addressed the hard financial situation faced by many libraries and encouraged participants to promote their libraries as educational institutions in order to highlight to users and policy-makers the importance of libraries within a community. Unfortunately I had to miss the talk of another keynote speaker Mitch Joel’s. However from what I heard, it sounded like it was very similar to talks I’ve heard at Web 2.You, where Web 2.0 technologies are promoted as promotional tools to strengthen the users’ experience with their library.

I did enjoy the talk by Pam MacKellar, the Accidental Librarian, who emphasized the importance of perspective when facing difficult situations. I felt that her talk was extremely relevant to me as a soon-to-be library director. She spoke about the damage caused when people only focus on obstacles instead of seeing potential opportunities. Although a lot of what she said was common sense (negativity breeds negativity), it was nonetheless important to hear this reiterated especially since I will soon be responsible for tough situations that will require that I maintain my most positive attitude.

The last keynote speaker and without a doubt the most entertaining of the conference was Paul Huschilt. Anyone who has not seen Paul Huschilt at a conference does not know what it is like to laugh non-stop for an hour. Tying in perfectly with Pam’s presentation on the importance of positive thinking, Paul Huschilt demonstrated the “Seven Humour Habits for Workplace Wellness” and had everyone laughing out loud. Yours truly even got to participate as a volunteer during his talk which was a lot of fun. Although Paul Huschilt really had nothing to do with libraries, I applaud the conference organizers for inviting such an entertaining speaker who reminded us all how therapeutic laughter can be.

The most interesting regular session that I attended was by Tanya Abramovitch, the Library Director of the Cote-St-Luc Public Library, who discussed “Library University” an initiative that offers courses on a variety of topics including Readers’ Advisory 101, Delivering Sweetheart Service, Searching for Movies workshop, etc. These courses mostly taught by staff are offered during work hours for other staff to develop their expertise in various subject areas. Allowing staff to take classes on subjects outside of their departmental responsibilities encourages the understanding of the library’s “big picture” which helps to better motivate them in their work. It was extremely obvious by Tanya Abramovitch’s enthusiasm the positive impact of this staff development initiative on the Cote-St-Luc library. Her enthusiasm was extremely contagious and everyone left this session motivated to better develop their own knowledge and skill sets in order to provide the best possible service to users.

My absolute favourite moment of the conference was during lunch on the Saturday when the convenor was attempting to get the attention of the crowd. In order to quiet down the half of the conference-goers who were still chatting away, the other half of the group spontaneously shushed them. It was the most delightfully hilarious sight to see such a large group of librarians shushing in unison. I could not help laughing out loud and this was even before Paul Huschilt took the stage!

This was a truly a wonderful conference. Thank you again to all the organizers and the speakers.

LWB in Guatemala, an unforgettable experience

1 May

Tonight is my last night in Guatemala and so this blog post will be brief. It seems like yesterday that I first heard about the Librarians’ Without Borders trip to Guatemala (Thanks so much Robyn!). This trip has taught me so much and it has reinforced my passion for libraries. In fact, I was even made fun of by the other members of our group for getting overly excited at the prospect of Guatemalan children using the school library for homework research! I will definitely be sharing lessons learned in the near future on both my blog and the LWB Guatemala trip blog.Thanks to everyone who has been so supportive of me and of the LWB McGill Crew.